“To fear the Lord is to hate evil. I hate arrogant pride, evil conduct, and perverse speech.” (CSB – Read the chapter)
God is love. That’s what John told us. That’s not some kind of an interpretive spin on what he said either. It’s a direct quote: God IS love. It’s the essence of His being. It defines more surely than almost anything else (with the exception of justice and holiness which together form the core triad of His character) who He is. Jesus told us that we are to be known by love if we are to be known as His followers. If that’s the case, then we shouldn’t hate anything, right? So what’s going on here?
“Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men.” (ESV – Read the chapter)
This is the hardest part of the story. This episode reveals Herod—known to history as Herod the Great—as one of the single greatest monsters ever to walk the face of the earth. It puts him in the ranks of Hitler and Stalin and Mao. He may not have killed nearly as many (though he had many thousands more than this put to death in his time, including family members), but anyone who would order the wholesale slaughter of babies jumps to the head of that deadly class. The bottom line right now, though, is this: What on earth are we supposed to do with this?
In this second-to-last part of our series, Reasons to Believe, we tackled what is perhaps the stiffest challenge to the Christian faith ever recorded: The problem of evil. How do we who confess our belief in a God who is good account for all the evil in the world? That’s perhaps a bigger question than we could answer over the course of a single sermon. What we can do is talk about how to respond to those who are struggling with it personally. That is exactly what we wrestled with in this message. Keep reading to see what we discovered.
An Absentee God
I read a story a couple of weeks ago about a serial killer in Russia. The man was convicted in 2015 and sentenced to life in prison for raping and murdering 22 women. Recently he confessed to additional murders for which he had not been previously convicted. Fifty-nine additional murders to be precise. If you’re into math, that makes 81 people—mostly women—whom this monster raped, likely tortured, and murdered. He was a police officer the whole time. When he was off-duty, he would offer to give young women walking on the side of the road a lift home. Over a span of more than twenty years, eighty-one times somebody’s daughter disappeared without any apparent trace. Let’s just go ahead and ask the hard question: How, in a world presided over by a God whose goodness is affirmed over and over again by billions of His followers, is something like this allowed to go on for so long without recourse? Read the rest…
“O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear? Or cry to you ‘Violence!’ and you will not save? Why do you make me see iniquity, and why do you idly look at wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arise. So the law is paralyzed, and justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous; so justice goes forth perverted.” (ESV – Read the book)
This will be a longer comment, but it’s going to cover the whole book. Habakkuk is one of my favorite books in the Bible (and not just because it’s really fun to say!). It is definitely my favorite among the minor prophets. I am drawn to it because it asks a question that people still ask today, and offers an answer that while not immediately satisfying (in fact, initially, it is deeply unsatisfying), after some reflection leads us into a greater peace and faith than we had before. Read the rest…
“No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons.” (ESV – Read the chapter)
Wait, I thought Paul’s conclusion was that eating the meat that came from a sacrifice at one of the local pagan temples was not morally problematic? Now it’s demonic? What??
We actually get more clarity on Paul’s final position a couple of verses from now and there is no contradiction. I’ll deal with that in a subsequent post. What is worth reflecting on here is not Paul’s main point, but some of the broader implications for what he has said. Most notably, that the pagan sacrifices were demonic. Read the rest…